Colon on wrong end of pitchers' duel with Garza
AL Pitcher of the Month's winning streak snapped at eight
OAKLAND -- If anything, the A's 3-1 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday at O.co Coliseum is a testament to the standard Bartolo Colon set throughout his eight-game winning streak dating back to May 20.
The two runs allowed in seven innings by Oakland's right-hander seemed almost mediocre compared to his previous outings, during which he assembled an All-Star caliber first half to the season, became the second Oakland pitcher since 1991 to win 11 games before the end of June, and was named American League Pitcher of the Month.
Colon's omnipresent fastball lacked bite, sure, and he allowed his first home run since May 14 and wild pitch since May 26, 2009 (443 innings). But the A's offense couldn't come through for their ageless ace, who had yet to lose a game since turning 40 on May 24 prior to Wednesday.
"He threw the ball well," catcher John Jaso said. "We just didn't score any runs to back up his performance."
Jaso appeared in the A's lineup at catcher for the first time following a 10-game hiatus due to a left palm abrasion. He went hitless in four plate appearances with one walk, and -- more critically -- was unable to block Colon's wild pitch in the first inning that allowed Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro to advance to second base.
Alfonso Soriano made Oakland's battery pay with a bloop single to give the Cubs the 1-0 lead.
"There was nobody who felt worse about that than me," Jaso said. "I had to come back in the clubhouse and get away from everybody I was so mad at myself."
Chicago tagged on one more against Colon with a Luis Valbuena solo shot in the third inning that was nearly nabbed by right fielder Josh Reddick, but cleared his glove by mere inches to give Chicago its eventual game-winning run.
"When he's pitching well, those are the kinds of ways you have to take advantage of him and score runs off him," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Colon settled down from there. The Cubs stranded seven runners on the day and were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, but the A's displayed even less offensive mettle.
Brandon Moss' solo home run to right field in the fourth inning cut the deficit to one, but Oakland's bats were otherwise stifled by Cubs right-hander Matt Garza, who didn't allow a runner to advanced past first base until a single and walk in consecutive at-bats from Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes in the sixth inning.
Moss and Josh Donaldson followed with a strikeout and soft fly ball to end the inning, while Cespedes popped up with Coco Crisp on third base with two outs in the eighth inning.
"That was as good as I've seen him in two years, especially against seven left-handers in the lineup," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Garza, who has allowed three runs over his last 30 innings. "His command of his fastball down and away [was sharp]. He had the extra velocity when he needed it, first-pitch strikes, you can go on and on. That was as impressive as you're going to get."
Cespedes also fumbled on the defensive end, misplaying three balls that resulted in a pair of triples, as well as a double that led to the Cubs' final run in the eighth.
"They were tough balls," Melvin said. "You have to make a decision. If you go get it and you're trying to keep him from second base and it gets by you, it's going to be three [bases]."
Despite its woes on Wednesday, Oakland was able to maintain its half-game lead in the American League West with the Rangers losing to Seattle in extra innings. A win in Thursday's series finale would give the A's their third consecutive series win, all against National League Central opponents.